Prof S Radhakrishnan graduated with a B.Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT Madras in 1966, post which he completed his M.Tech (in 1971) in Engineering Mechanics and Ph.D (in 1981) in Biomechanics also from IIT Madras. Here he talks about his experiences as a professor.
EXPERIENCES AS A TEACHER
I have taught in IITM in the Department of Applied Mechanics, from 0ctober 1966 to April 2008,both at Undergraduate & Postgraduate levels. I always found that preparations for a B.Tech class takes more effort and one has to be always on their toes to experience googlies and bouncers! Sometimes we duck to prevent any skull fracture or face the misery of being clean bowled! When at the end of the semester and you get graded, you feel happy that after all you are not all that bad. We go up the ladder or sometimes have a severe fall depending on the class you are handling. From my personal experience, I found that the same subject taught over decades causes an exponential decay as your enthusiasm drops with a take it easy policy. In my opinion no teacher should teach the same course continuously for more than 5 times. I learnt a lot from my students.
AS A STUDENT
As a B.Tech student, I found that life was very enjoyable but at the same time very tough. The German professors then were awesome. Some were a terror and some very friendly. Many times we did not follow what they said as their knowledge was very high and their English difficult to comprehend. Weekends were more dreaded as the notice of the monthly tests used to appear suddenly or at short notice. Periodicals, open book exams, strenuous workshops and drawings were the order of the day. However it made us complete technologists. Sad that nowadays drawings and workshops are not given that importance.
I am happy to state that all my PhD students are very well placed and I had learnt a lot from each of them as they dwelt on different topics. They all have a good rapport with me even to date. The M.Techs on the other hand are a bunch of more docile students and have great respect for the teacher. I enjoyed working with them on both analytical and hardware projects.
ON MY ROLE AFTER GRADUATION
Initially I was reluctant to taking up teaching and research as my career, but was forced into it out of necessity to earn more compared to a Junior Engineer post in the Tamil Nadu government then. After my M.tech on part time basis, I had an offer to join ISRO, but I continued my stay in IIT being given the opportunity to do what pleased me most. I completed my Ph.D in the area of biomechanics and had in fact fared better in both M.Tech and Ph.D than in my undergraduate days. That gave me the motivation that I had not made a serious mistake in my career.
I was a soft spoken quite person, but the position of lab head and the Head of the Department later, enabled me to also administer fairly well. I sincerely thank the former Director Prof.M. S. Ananth for recognizing my capability and helping to nurture it. These skills enabled me to muster courage to initiate formation of the retired faculty pensioner’s association, of which i also happened to be its first General Secretary.
MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS
My most memorable moments were not when i got admission to IIT against stiff competition nor was it when i secured my PhD without my guide being in IIT then. But it was when during Director Prof( late) P. V. Indiresan’s time I was invited to his house for tea for being recognised by the undergraduate students as one of the best teachers and later on when invited by him for dinner at his place while in Germany.
A WORD OF ADVICE AND ADMIRATION
The academic freedom to do what pleases you is the most attractive one. There are enough opportunities to explore the unexplored.
The services of senior retired faculty/ emeritus professors may be used to handle undergraduate classes as their rich and vast experience will help mould the students as useful citizens and stimulate them for achieving higher goals. Finally, our students are internationally recognized and occupy top positions in industry and academics.
It is a pleasure to be a part of the IIT fraternity having spent most of my life in IIT Madras, for nearly a half century. To me it is a ‘Home away from Home’
My best wishes for a glorious future to all.
– Prof. S. Radhakrishnan, Former Head, Applied Mechanics